Turfgrasses are generally divided into two categories depending on the weather they require for optimal growth: warm-season grasses and cool-season grasses. Some regions with mild climates support either type of grass. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls these areas "transition zones," and Middle Tennessee is one of them.
When it comes to selecting turfgrasses for Middle Tennessee, a gardener has a choice. Generally, warm-season grasses are recommended for the lower elevations in the middle part of the state, while cool-season grasses are good throughout the state.
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Kentucky Bluegrass for Tennessee
Kentucky bluegrass is an adaptable cool-season grass that is well suited for the Tennessee climate. It grows best during the fall, winter, and spring seasons, slowing down during the summer. The species is popular across mild areas of the country, providing an attractive, deep-green lawn. Kentucky bluegrass prefers full sun but tolerates some shade. It can be planted from both seed and sod and mixes well with other types of grasses.
Tall Fescue Turfgrass for Tennessee
Tall fescue is a perennial cool-season grass known for its durability and rapid growth during the spring and fall. It can tolerate full sun and shaded areas and is also considered drought-resistant, although watering may be required during extended arid periods. It is the most common cool-season grass used for home lawns in Tennessee.
Because tall fescue does well in shaded areas, it is a good lawn grass for yards with trees. It does not require a lot of maintenance and is often used on sports fields. It is one of the last of the cold-season grasses to lose its attractive dark-green color in autumn. The best time to plant tall fescue is in the early fall from sod or seed.
Warm-Season Grasses for Tennessee
Zoysia, specifically Zoysia japonica, is a good choice for Tennessee because it is one of the most cold-tolerant of the warm-season grasses. Zoysia rarely suffers any winter damage in Tennessee and does well in areas with full sun and partial shade. It is considered resistant to drought because it has deep roots that have the ability to draw water from the ground. It spreads with stolons and rhizomes and is a durable grass that forms a dense turf and turns brown following the first frost, but it is one of the first of the warm-weather grasses to turn green in the spring.
Perennial ryegrass is a warm-season grass known for its durability. It should only be used in mild regions in Tennessee since it does not survive temperature extremes. It is frequently chosen for golf courses and sports fields thanks to its eye-catching dark-green color and medium texture. It is a quick grower and because of its versatility, it is often mixed with other grasses. Perennial ryegrass does not require much maintenance and forms a thick sod.